A British clothing supplier has won a four-year trademark battle against the fashion giant Lacoste, in a significant case that gives hope to smaller companies facing legal challenges from big corporates with deep pockets.
Lacoste won the initial legal dispute in 2006 against Baker Street Clothing, in what became a modern-day battle of David vs Goliath. The row emerged over Baker Street Clothing's registration of the word alligator, used on its clothing range, because it was too close to Lacoste's iconic crocodile logo.
The case centred on how far the public would associate a word for another reptile with a physical and well-known international brand, with Lacoste arguing it would confuse them. However, Baker Street Clothing, which supplies clothes to UK retailers, appealed and late last month emerged victorious.
The QC Geoffrey Hobbs decided in favour of Baker Street Clothing, which is based in Altrincham, Cheshire, on the grounds that the word alligator on clothing would not lead an individual to associate it with Lacoste's crocodile logo.
Joel Brown, the managing director of Baker Street Clothing, said: "This is a thrilling victory for smaller companies everywhere to demonstrate that they can take on these giant organisations and win. It was intimidating to take on such a huge company and our initial reaction when we heard Lacoste were planning legal action was, 'How on earth are we going to take on these giants?'. But we believed in our convictions and refused to give up."
Baker Street Clothing, which uses manufacturing plants in Romania, China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, was represented by Kuits Solicitors. Ian Morris, the head of intellectual property at the law firm, said: "This is a very significant decision limiting the extent of the monopoly of a famous trademark."
The victory means Baker Street Clothing can now start talks with retailers, such as Debenhams, to launch the Alligator range in their shops over the coming year. Mr Brown said: "It has been frustrating to have our plans on hold for so long, and it's refreshing and exciting to be able to start thinking about the launch of the range rather than putting together a legal case."